It might have taken us humans a while to get used to life indoors, but animals all over the globe have adapted to the new situation pretty speedily. From ducks and flamingos to goats and black bears, animals have been quick to take back spaces once dominated by human activity. Usually, this pride of big cats isn’t spotted anywhere near the tourist haunts, but a ranger recently snapped them snoozing like a bunch of tame tabbies on the traffic-free tarmac near what was until recently a busy camp for visitors on safari.
Park ranger Richard Sowry was out on patrol on Wednesday when he snapped a pride sleeping on a road that would normally be busy with tourists. But Kruger, like other wildlife parks, has been shut since 25 March as part of the pandemic lockdown.
Big cats would usually only be seen by rangers on the roads by night.
As a ranger in one of Africa’s largest game reserves, Mr. Sowry performs an essential service and continues to work during the lockdown, checking on the wildlife and guarding against poachers.
While driving near Orpen Rest Camp on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Sowry spotted the lions on the road ahead and pulled up just five meters (5.5 yards) away to look at the unusual phenomenon. As he took photos with his mobile phone, the lions did not seem bothered, most of them apparently fast asleep. “Lions are used to people in vehicles,” he explained. “All animals have much more of an instinctive fear of people on foot, so if I had walked up they would never have allowed me to get so close.”
The oldest lioness in the pride is about 14, “which is very old for a lioness”, so they are used to seeing vehicles. Normally Mr. Sowry would only see lions sleeping on the park’s roads on colder nights in the winter when the tar retains quite a lot of heat.
“Kruger is a very wild place,” he says. “It has been wild and it is still wild.”
He is just happy to share his photos with people who cannot visit the park right now because of the pandemic.
“These are difficult times for everyone and the intention was to bring people joy,” he says.
“Everybody realizes the importance of the lockdown and the rangers are there to do their normal duties,” says media officer Isaac Phaala. “To maintain the infrastructure takes quite a bit of work so that when the park opens, you don’t start from scratch.”
As for the lions, he adds, “normally they would be in the bushes because of the traffic but they are very smart and now they are enjoying the freedom of the park without us”.